My stepfather has been deceased for 10 years this December. I was holding his hand when he died. Why is it that I'm still so despondent? The holidays make it so much harder for me. I loved him with all my heart. There was no stress between us, no harsh words, nothing for me to feel "guilty" about the way our relationship was, which causes some to be able to have closure. He was my "daddy." My natural father (divorced from my mother when I was an infant) died many years prior and it hurt, but not like this and I don't actually cry or feel grief about his passing.
Today, out of nowhere, I started crying remembering my stepdad at the table, praying before we ate, and so many other memories, and how much I loved him and how I feel so horrible a void without him in my life. What is wrong with me, Lynda?
First, I'd like to talk about grief in general. It shows up in many different situations (death, divorce, betrayal -- any kind of loss), and it can be a profoundly deep and painful experience. While there are guidelines and wonderful grief counselors to help us through these times, there really are no hard and fast rules about how someone should integrate those heart-and-soul-wrenching feelings of loss. As overwhelming and exhausting as extreme grief can be, it is simply not finished until it is finished.
I believe one of the reasons the pain of losing your stepfather still resonates so strongly in your psyche is specifically because you didn't have any stress, harsh words or anything to feel guilty about. You are experiencing pure grief: missing the one who is gone. It makes complete sense that this man who loved you and who held all your "father" hopes/dreams, would be desperately missed.
Personally, I wonder if letting yourself love (perhaps males in particular?) comes hard for you? If another reason the death of your stepdad continues to re-traumatize you is because you don't let many people in?
Holidays are the worst for reminding us of what we wish we had, what we no longer have, what everyone else seems to have, what we fear we'll never have, etc.
Now, having said all that, I want to say that I'd like to express a hint of concern about the level of your pain. There is a point when grief can turn into "morbid grief," and that is an entire different ball of wax altogether. It is possible you are skirting that territory. But the good news is that there are hundreds of wonderful grief counselors here along the Front Range and joining a support group or beginning individual psychotherapy can really help you feel better.
Another suggestion is that you might consider doing some volunteer work at your local Hospice. They often allow those who've experienced death first-hand to work as volunteer support counselors. Your grief counselor can tell you all about that.
One more thing. You're inching up on an important turning point regarding love, connection and relationship. If you are willing to open your heart to giving and receiving more love (in all its forms), something pleasantly unexpected is just around the metaphorical corner.
Sometimes we need help to let go of old patterns. Give it some thought, OK?